Which social media channel sells the most books?

“Which one social media channel will net me the most book sales?” an author asked me recently during my new weekly #BookMarketingChat.

Well, it’s not that easy. Wouldn’t it be great if we could just go to say, Facebook, because that’s the EASY button, and violá! They will come, we will sell, and yacht-life, here we come. Alas, it just doesn’t work that way because well, a few reasons.

Let’s deconstruct.

Social media: Influence by network

*Note: chart is not specific to book sales*

YouTube:

Across the board, YouTube has the highest conversions and the all-important measure, purchases. Yet, how many authors do you know (including myself) who utilize YouTube? And of those who do, how many are gaining the bulk of their sales from YouTube? Probably not a lot, with of course, the occasional notable exception like John Green.

Facebook: 

No surprise here, given that 1.6 billion people use Facebook, worldwide. What this means for authors is that somewhere in that mix is your demographic. In fact, Facebook was the first social network to surpass 1 billion monthly active users (Source: Statista.com).

How do you find readers? That’s the tricky part, as we are not allowed to use our personal accounts for financial gain (yea, we all agreed to that when we signed up for our accounts), so we have to reach our readers via an author page — tricky, Facebook, tricky — and the only way to get people over to our page is to pay to boost posts, or promote our page — aka, advertising. Still, I love interacting with people on a personal level, which is what the personal account is for, not ‘selling,’ so there’s that.

Use your author page to sell and interact, your personal account to build relationships. Keep the two separate. If you don’t, you risk Facebook shutting down your account (and believe me, it happens ALL.THE.TIME.).

Google+:

The next most effective site is, shockingly for many, Google+. Google+, you say, scratching your head. Are they even still around? Yes, not only is Google+ still around, it’svery effective for helping your SEO for one extremely simple reason: Google owns Google+. Whenever you post to G+, it shows up at the top of your Google profile.

Like Facebook, G+ has both personal (circle) accounts and professional brand pages. Be sure to set up your professional author page. *If you’re using Hootsuite, only the brand page integrates. Don’t worry too much about interacting, likes, follows, etc. The most important thing here is posting regularly (again, integrate with Hootsuite or Buffer — super easy) to increase your visibility on Google.

Pinterest: 

Look at Pinterest! I love Pinterest. It’s easy to use, but don’t be fooled, it’s a game changer for authors if you learn how to use it properly by optimizing your pins. Look at this: Pinterest was the fastest independently launched site to reach 10 million unique monthly visitors. (Source: Statista.com). Ever. Awareness level is high as well, so this is a good place for you to share your books, blog posts, and visual quotes.

For some great optimization tips, take a look at Pinterest’s Help section, this FAB, detailed article from CoSchedule Blog, or this article from AdWeek. Pin a lot, share a lot, join group boards. I recommend adding the Pinterest extension to your browser toolbar to make sharing easy.

Twitter: 

Clearly, my favorite for many reasons, but the biggest one is this: look at that big blue awareness bar — that’s why Twitter is great for authors — to help with visibility, connection, and building relationships. It’s total sh*t for sales, which is why authors need to STOP already with the ‘buy my book!’ tweets and autoDMs.

Authors, look at the data! Nobody is buying your bloody books from Twitter! 

I will say this, though: Twitter is a fabulous channel for developing relationships, and relationships are key to selling books. Connect with readers by using ManageFlitter(totally worth getting the Pro plan for like, $12/month or something) to target readers, book bloggers, book reviewers, book clubs — aka readers and influencers). The biggest mistake I see authors make when they start on Twitter, and why they whine that it’s all ‘authors hawking books’ is because they’re only following other authors.

Start right now on changing your strategy, and if you don’t have one, get one.

Back to our original question … Which social media channel is best for authors?

A case study

Not so fast there, cowboy. That’s a demographics question. What is your genre? Who is your ideal reader? Have you done any research? Do you have any idea? 

I created a marketing plan recently for a client whose book is self-help. When I asked him who his demographic/ideal reader is he replied, “No f*cking clue,” which is so common. We write for a set of readers in our heads, but mostly we write for ourselves. There is data out there though; you just need to find it.

How did I find out who his demographic is? I started with Google (doh). Interestingly, I found that readers of self-help books tend to be female, middle-class, educated, younger, with 73% under the age of 45.

So, what does this tell me about where he should spent his time on social media?

From there, I went to the Pew Research Center, to find out more info, broken down by gender and social media channel. They found that “female internet users are roughly three times as likely as their male counterparts to use Pinterest (44% vs. 16%). In addition, online women are also more likely than online men to use Facebook and Instagram. Some 77% of online women are Facebook users, compared with two-thirds of online men. Instagram use follows a similar pattern, with online women being more inclined to use the picture-sharing site than men (31% vs. 24%).” *Twitter and LinkedIn skewed pretty evenly.

So, after all that Sherlocking, what conclusion did I reach? That this guy needs to be spending his social media time on Pinterest, Facebook, and Instagram (to his horror), with consistency on Twitter and LinkedIn.

This research took me maybe twenty minutes of clicking around and taking notes, something every one of you reading this can easily do to find out your own demographic information. 

Yes, that was a hint.

Will social media channel sells my books?

No. Not by itself. And that’s assuming that by ‘social media,’ you understand that it’s about interaction, sharing interesting, curated articles, visual quotes, participating in chats, and other tactics that reveal you as a human being, not an automaton. Selling books is a combination of many factors, including:

  • Regular, consistent blogging
  • an SEO-optimized website
  • a newsletter
  • promotions
  • reviews
  • pricing geared toward your demographic
  • blog tours (great for visibility/terrible for book sales)
  • interaction with readers on many levels
  • advertising
  • and many other factors not listed here, but this is a start….

My suggestion for any author is to do the work: research, learn, study, and stop looking for the easy button. Being an author is being a business because you are selling a product. Be a professional, and learn all the ways possible to market and sell your work. And above all, write great books!

Rachel Thompson is a bestselling author, and a social media and author marketing/branding consultant (BadRedheadMedia). She writes for several sites, including Huffington Post, Medium, Mogul, Feminine CollectivePronoun, Blue Ink Review and Indie Reader. This post was originally published on Rachel’s blog

Comments

  1. Michael Lackey

    I have had more connections and actual book sales come from Instagram. The book community there is off the charts.

    1. Rachel Thompson

      Hi Michael,

      Thanks for reading and responding. I see you on Instagram (I love it, too!). The chart didn’t include it, so I’m hoping the update will.

      Instagram doesn’t allow a hyperlink in each post, so I’m curious how you’re getting off the chart actual book sales, given that your link in your profile goes to your website — through ads, perhaps? I’d love to learn any new tricks you may have up your sleeve.

      thanks again,
      Rachel

  2. Laura Wilkinson

    Very interesting, thank you. I’d be interested in a reader demographic for YouTube? I suspect the conversation rate is higher for YA. Most of the book vloggers concentrate on YA, NA and fantasy – certainly in the U.K.. Plus, you use non-fiction when identifying audience where it is much, much, much easier to find your audience. Fiction is harder, especially if you write cross-genre or book-club type fiction, and especially as a number of readers tend not to read exclusively within one or two genres. Do you have ideas for fiction? Finally, it strikes me this is aimed primarily at the self published or hybrid author as you mention $12 a month, though I appreciate that trad published authors have to actively promote their work too. … Interesting nevertheless.

  3. Helena Halme

    Thank you for an excellent post. I use all of the above plus Instagram and it is VERY time-consuming. However, I’ve been saved by MeetEdgar which is working out better than expected. All of my FB pages likes (I have 4 pages, more fool me) and Twitter follower numbers have gone up. It is an expense, but it works well if you have a lot of blog content and write posts regularly. And it’s given me more time to write.
    I’ve also just set up an FB group (Nordic Romance Readers https://business.facebook.com/groups/NordicRomanceReaders/), where I hope I can better interact with my readers. What is your opinion on FB groups for fiction writers?

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